NO MORE BUSSES TO HUNTINGTON AVE., said the guy at the station. WE’RE CLOSING UP FOR THE NIGHT.
WHAT’S THE NEXT BUS? I asked him.
Some whispers. He was chatting with someone just out of view. He turned to me and said: BLUE HILLS. Then grabbed the metal cage and pulled it over the window with a loud clank.
FUCK! I spat. I turned to Samantha and smiled.
She stood there, all innocent and beautiful. I paced up and down the ramp.
Guess we should have spent less time branding each other with smileys from our lighters and more time preparing for the future.
I looked at her again, still smiling.
She was still shrugging.
I nodded up the ramp toward the bus that was just pulling in.
IT’D BE A LONG WALK, I told her. AT LEAST THIS WAY WE’RE A LITTLE BIT CLOSER.
She stopped shrugging and nodded.
We ran through the station, all the while fumbling for loose quarters in our pockets.
The bus doors slid shut just as we got there.
I banged my fist on the glass.
The doors slid open.
The bus driver, an elderly black man with short gray hair and a patchy gray beard, looked at us very sharply. He was considering this. We stood there framed by the doorway as he held his wrinkly black hand over the coin reader.
I started up the steps.
Samantha followed me on the bus.
He removed his hand from the coin reader and looked rather nervous as we walked right past him and dropped our quarters in the machine.
There were two people on the bus, sound asleep. They sat in opposite aisles from one another and both their heads were buried in a large backpack.
We made our way to the back.
The bus jerked up and rumbled out of the station. I watched as Boston flew past me in a blur of lights. Samantha rested her head on my shoulder.
I heard a ding and in a few beats the bus pulled up and one of the passengers got off. Before the bus started up again, the driver glared at me through the rearview mirror. His eyes looked hardened and dead.
A few more streets later the bus pulled up and we gained a new passenger. A black man a few years older than us walked right up to us and sat down in the row in front of us.
Samantha lifted her head and snapped to attention.
The black man said: LISTEN. He was not looking at us. He was looking straight ahead, at the window across from him.
LISTEN, he repeated. DO YOU KNOW WHERE THIS BUS GOES?
UM, BLUE HILLS? I offered.
He chuckled but I didn’t get the joke.
He explained that Blue Hills crosses through Dorchester and Mattapan and was perhaps one of the toughest spots in the city.
I looked at Samantha.
Her eyes said that she was a little bit scared.
I didn’t care. I was ready for an adventure.
The bus driver said: LAST STOP. BLUE HILLS.
As we followed behind the black man, he said without turning around: JUST STICK WITH ME, YOU’LL BE FINE.
I checked the time and it was almost 2AM.
He said he had to go get some smokes. FOLLOW ME.
We crossed the street close behind him.
He entered a 7/11 and I’d never seen a 7/11 that looked quite like that. It was just an empty room and the clerk and all the store’s products were secured behind bulletproof glass.
That was when the fear started to sink in.
We were way out of our league.
Two middle-class white kids.
We didn’t belong here.
He ordered a pack of cigarettes and the clerk turned and retrieved one and slid it through the rectangular window at the bottom of the glass.
We followed him out of the store.
He said: THERE SHOULD BE ANOTHER BUS COMING THROUGH HERE SOON. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE IT’S GOING. YOU TWO ARE GETTING ON IT.
We followed him across the bleak inner-city street. There was no noise except for the rattling of cans somewhere in the distance. It really set the ambiance of the night. The streets were empty. Imagine an old Western movie and there’s about to be a showdown and everyone is hiding and all that you can see are tumbleweeds rolling past the screen.
We reached the bus stop and Samantha sat on the ground with her back to the wall as we waited.
Time passed ever so slowly. We could have been there for 30 minutes or a few hours, there was no way of knowing.
A black man and a black woman crossed us and the black man looked us up and down and said: YO, YOU WAITING FOR THE BUS?
He said: THIS AIN’T THE RIGHT BUS STOP. THE ONE YOU LOOKIN FOR IS OVER THERE. He pointed down the street to a dark dark alleyway.
The man we were following turned to him and said: THEY’RE WITH ME!
The strange woman laughed real loud and the man she was with just snarled and said: YOU’RE LOSS.
A cop car drove past and the man we were with flagged him down. They stopped in the middle of the street, but it didn’t matter because there was no traffic whatsoever—they were the only car for miles.
The man said: HEY, YO. CAN YOU GIVE THESE TWO KIDS A RIDE OUTTA HERE?
The two cops exchanged a glance, then turned to the man and said: NOT OUR PROBLEM.
The black man said: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO TURN ON THE NEWS THIS MORNING AND FIND OUT TWO WHITE KIDS HAD BEEN MURDERED ON YOUR WATCH.
Again, they exchanged a glance.
The one in the driver seat said: I GUESS WE CAN GIVE THEM A RIDE TO THE EDGE OF TOWN. WE CAN’T GO ANY FARTHER, THOUGH.
The man looked at us and said: WHAT ARE YOU TWO WAITING FOR?
We hurried into the back of the cruiser. This was my first time in a cop car without my hands cuffed behind my back. They drove us to the edge of town and we walked the rest of the way back to Samantha’s dorm.